Pope Francis arrives by helicopter at the Serafico Institute on October 4, 2013 in Assisi. AFP PHOTO POOL / GIAN MATTEO CROCCHIONI
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The small medieval Italian pilgrimage town of Assisi, birthplace of Francis, Catholic patron saint of ecologists, is embarking on a quiet revolution. Mayor Stefania Proietti, an energy expert, plans to cut carbon emissions 40 percent between now and 2030, and hopes the "city on the hill" will inspire others to change too.Assisi draws about 6 million visitors each year, including Nobel Peace Prize winners, rock stars, popes and presidents.Last month the city committed to shun investments in fossil fuels and shift to greener energies, alongside an international coalition of 40 Catholic organizations.Proietti, who is a professor of energy systems at Rome's Guglielmo Marconi University, said she faces major challenges bringing about change in the city.Its architectural heritage is one: houses cannot put solar panels on their roofs in this UNESCO world heritage site. The biggest challenge, though, is changing people's attitudes, she said.The energy-efficient plant produces electricity and the resulting heat is piped to people's homes and city buildings.Saint Francis is buried in the city's basilica, the focus of pilgrims to the city and about 120 million people who join its services via a webcast each year.
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